SATURNALIA: MY “S” POST FOR THE PAGAN BLOG PROJECT
I don’t know about y’all, but this time of the year slams my life like Babe Ruth. Lesse: Kids are back in school and I’m back to teaching them at AU, the Southern Fried Teen is back to Pagan lessons and Geography, my summer garden turns over for a fall crop, Mabon dinners, Initiations, Birthdays, Gatherings (at Seba Land, whew) and Samhain . . . all within a few months of each other. Somewhere in between are the moments of worship out in the trees, the moments with my Tribe and mentoring and the moments where I wish I could paint my toenails or dye my hair or wipe my . . .
Yup. I’m back again in Saturnalia. Pure, sweet, full-tilt-boogie Saturnalia. And right in the middle of that, I contact the beautiful Rowan Pendragon to see if I can hop on board the Pagan Blog Project, three-fourths on the way to the finish line. (Thanks, Rowan! Promise if you do one for 2013, I’ll be first in line!) What is it about this time of the year for us Pagans? The first leaf falls, Kroger puts out its Halloween and we’re all SQUEAL regardless of lack of sleep or money. And here we are, again.
For Pagans, the observance of true Saturnalia hits a few months later in honor of Saturn, the God of Sowing. We, like the Christians with their Wal-Mart Christmas, start balls early out of respect to the harvests, the changing seasons and that squeal moment I mentioned earlier. But, for the audacious William Shakespeare, it meant simply: Madness. Folly. Wild celebration with abandon. But that’s not the whole of it, Batchildren.
According to my academic bestie, the illustrious Dr. Robin Bates of Lynchburg College (and Shakespearean scholar):
Saturnalia is an upside-downness, up-ending the rules and regulations in order that the problems that you had going into Saturnalia work themselves out. It is for lovers in the forest in Midsummer Night’s dream, at the mercy of the fairies. It is Rosalind and Celia venturing into the forest of Arden where gender, class and the difference between court and country fall apart as needed (“As You Like It”). And those are just his comedies. In “Macbeth,” the dark edge of Saturnalia is the upside-down world after the murder of the king: “A falcon, towering in her pride of place, / Was by a mousing owl hawk’d at and kill’d.”  In its dangerous terms, Saturnalia reverses even the natural order of the prey. This is why we love it. If Saturnalia weren’t dangerous, it wouldn’t appeal to us. The thrill of reversal is irresistible. It is also the only way to solve the everyday problems that get ingrained during the year. We have to tear it down to rebuild it. It’s not just about reversing things, it’s the completely vacating of the rules–but it’s important to remember that the party can’t go on forever, at some point you gotta’ go back to work. It is dangerous, simply because we must face the opposite of ourselves. 
And yes, it is–in its very essence–Pagan. As Robin reminded me, this is the very reason you have always loved it, my dear. She is right. If Saturn is the God of Sowing, SFW is the Witch of Saturnalia: tearing down old gardens with a vengeance, weaving and braiding their vines into a Burning Man for Samhain, flirting with fairies, remembering the child-like abandon of masquerade and fire and caramel apples . . all in celebration of the year, all in determination for a complete rebuilding of the next. Hell. Yeah.
If that can’t work out the kinks, what can?
I have a few other analogies for this form of full-tilt-boogie (we all know, righteous sex brings on labor), but you get the idea. The most intriguing of Robin’s points is the last one: the complete, unabashed turn to the mirror and full on gaze at the other side is dangerous — but downright necessary if we are to rebuild.
I have this lesson that I teach my World Literature students about the pendulum in history. We discuss its wild, drastic swing from left (radical, revolutionary) to right (conservative, submission and acceptance) and how that–not unlike any organic system–the middle cannot be achieved without the long (harsh) sweep of the pendulum. It is, in effect, the only way to achieve new balance, much like a flood carving a mountain. We have to, as Robin points out, “tear it down to rebuild” ourselves, our lives, our sanity. About this time of the year, my witchy momentum is in full get-up-and-go . . . all culminating in one wild, final All Hallows Eve before settling into the crisp and hearth of Yule. If knowledge is power (and it damn straight is), then I would rather ride into this Saturnalia without blinders on, in full view of the crescendo my bones crave if they are to vibrate in perfect tune by November 1st. Bring it on. Zombies and vampires. Squash soup and maple butter. Carved pumpkins and medieval songs sung around cracking fires. Dark, mulled wines and ciders sipped too late against ancient tales and mysteries. Bring it on. Is it dangerous? Well, yeah. Is it necessary?
Damn skippy. Even our sweet Christians feel the urge to dance with Saturn: knocking door to door, watching Hocus Pocus and decorating their yards in hay bales and the Great Pumpkin. Why, even Paula Deen puts out a Halloween edition. But . . . it’s more than trick or treat, isn’t it, Batchildren? Oh, yes. We above all citizens know how thin the veil will wane between this world and the Other, between ourselves and our ancestors and between what we claim to be and what we see in the mirror if we look too long. (Come on. You know you’ve done it.) It’s our last dance, our last chance for the truth of the year.
I would rather do it fully awake, myself. No anesthesia for me, thanks: cut me open and call it Saturnalia time. Last Samhain, I “cast” for the following things in 2012:
1. A house we could own with a couple of acres, a natural water-well and far enough out in the country to give someone a panty wad trying to locate us.
2. An opportunity to stay home and grow stuff, cook stuff and write stuff.
3. An Australian Shepherd puppy that my aging Aussie could train and love.
4. An unveiling of rotten apples in my close friendship circles and the courage to let them go.
5. A healed family unit.
Here it is, almost Mabon and this is the way that little Southern spell worked out in Alabama:
1. An old house, in Salem (baha) Alabama and twenty miles from town. Two acres, well water, surrounded by trees and red-tail hawks. (This one was rough and fast and my ass is still chapped by the that tough-lovin’ . . . but I’m starting to get jiggy with it.)
2. The book, Boondock Witch, is almost done. Also, see number 3.
3. Two, that’s right, two soon-to-be registrated AKC Aussie gals, given to me by the most unlikely (but grass-fed witchy) source you would ever believe. Gatsby (the aging doggie) is in, well, doggie heaven. Babies are worth $1,300 a pop. Aussie ranch? Yes, please. Looking up ethical breeding practices a year ahead of time!
4. The permanent (finally) casting off of a very toxic friend. (Don’t worry, y’all. This was the only “frenemy” SFW ever had . . . I just didn’t see it fully until this year. Unveiling, complete. After a decade of pain, all it took was asking for the truth. And then, accepting it.) And the gifting of new, ethical, kind, magical friends? Stunning work, 2012. Just stunning. Took out the sting a bit.
5. Family? I’m covered in family. The Southern Fried Chillun are out here on a regular basis, I’ve been gifted with new magic babies, brothers and sisters that make my soul warm (shout out, Cynthia and Faron!) and looking forward to another Gathering of my Deep South Tribe.
Did it all take Saturnalia? Laws, yes it did. ‘Bout wore my boots down to the nub, dancing that fast against the bullets zinging the dirt. But, I’d gotten a might too comfortable. Just a smidge too safe. And there wasn’t a thing that would have shaken my lazy ass up but upside-down, inside-out reversal of the natural order of my unnaturally ordered world. I had to look at the opposite of myself, my dystopic self, in order to see that: I liked her. She was braver, wilder, truer than the “me” I was . . . and was it dangerous? Still is.
It means I’m still six foot above ground, flooding my world in order to stand on a mountain.
Happy Saturnalia, Y’all, from the Deep South.
1. Shakespeare, William. “Macbeth.” Open Source Shakespeare. Act 2, Scene 4, LIne 961-962. Web. 17 Sept. 2012. <www.opensourceshakespeare.com>.
Special thanks to Rowan Pendragon and the Pagan Blog Project for letting me ride this horse this late in the year. The Pagan Blog Project